Cassini captures lightning on Saturn

Nasa’s Cassini orbiter delivered the Huygens probe to Titan in 2005, has tasted Enceladus’ briny breath, spied the methane lakes of Titan and possible caves on that strangely familiar world. Not to mention Saturn’s northern lights and its wondrous dancing moons. The latest stunning images from the onboard instruments are the first to capture lightning on Saturn. Below the fold Cassini scientists provide a proper background, but here are the animated images themselves with an approximated soundtrack. Video credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space …

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Cassini returns to the plumes [on Enceladus]

It’s been easier to get a close-up view of Saturn’s moons than the Perseids this year. But then there is a telescope, of sorts, orbiting that particular gas giant. The Cassini-Huygens mission has already landed a probe on Titan, and snapped the spectacular image of Saturn eclipsing Sol, as well as providing evidence that Titan has liquid ethane on its surface. The Huygens probe took pictures too. But yesterday Cassini swept past Enceladus for a second time. Skimming through jets …

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“There’s no place like home…”

I didn’t ‘Wave at Saturn’ on 19 July when the Cassini probe, orbiting the gas giant, was taking a high-definition image of the view back home.  I don’t think it encouraged a proper sense of perspective…  But the resultant image is stunning. [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute] It’s not the first time Cassini has looked home.  Nor is it the only stunning image the probe has provided.  But, as those involved pointed out “We can’t see individual continents or people in this …

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“A major difference between the hurricanes is that the one on Saturn is much bigger…”

As I mentioned previously, Saturn doesn’t get the love some of our other gas giants do.  [All hail our friend and lord, Jupiter!  Keeping Ogdy at bay… – Ed]  Indeed… [new link]  But, with the help of Cassini, Saturn does provide some wondrous images.   In some of its first sunlit images of Saturn’s north pole, Cassini has looked inside the mysterious hexagon-shaped jet-stream noted here, and spied an enormous hurricane. In high-resolution pictures and video, scientists see the hurricane’s eye is about 1,250 miles …

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“In Saturn’s Shadow” – redux

Saturn doesn’t get the love some of our other gas giants do.  [All hail our friend and lord, Jupiter!  Keeping Ogdy at bay… – Ed]  Indeed.  But, with the help of Cassini, Saturn does provide some wondrous images.  [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute].  From the image’s associated text NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has delivered a glorious view of Saturn, taken while the spacecraft was in Saturn’s shadow. The cameras were turned toward Saturn and the sun so that the planet and rings are backlit. …

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Titan’s Nile River Valley

Fascinating image from Nasa’s Cassini probe at Saturn, where we’ve previously watched the weather on Titan.  [Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI.]  North is to the right in this view. From the JPLnews press release “Titan is the only place we’ve found besides Earth that has a liquid in continuous movement on its surface,” said Steve Wall, the radar deputy team lead, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “This picture gives us a snapshot of a world in motion. Rain falls, …

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Journey to Jupiter

As the BBC reports, and the Guardian notes, Nasa’s Juno Mission to our friend and lord, Jupiter, is scheduled to launch this afternoon on an Atlas V rocket.  There’s an impressive Juno mission website too.  Lift-off at 15:34 UT [4.34pm BST].  Here’s a short overview of the mission.  Video credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. And, if you have time, here’s the full science briefing via NasaTV. You can also watch the launch live via NasaTV.  Or, indeed, here! Update2  I’ve replaced the live Ustream video with …

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Enceladus ‘footprint’ on Saturn

Nasa’s Cassini probe has been exploring Saturn’s system of moons since 2004 – some archived posts here.  Recently it’s watched the weather on Titan and tasted Enceladus’ briny breath.  That briny breath is responsible for the latest observed phenomenon –  Aurora from Saturn moon ‘circuit’.  Image credits: NASA/JPL/University of Colorado/Central Arizona College.  Image details here. From the Cassini mission press release “The footprint discovery at Saturn is one of the most important fields and particle revelations from Cassini and ultimately may help us …

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“you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s…”

With Cassini exploring Saturn’s moons, and Messenger finally at Mercury, the BBC’s Spaceman, Jonathan Amos, takes an interesting look at the future prospects for interstellar travel.  And he starts with this observation of Voyager’s 33-year-long journey. I’ve been troubled of late by the scale of things, by the vastness of space. It’s been brought into focus by two things, I think. The first is the Voyager 1 probe – the most distant man-made object from Earth. I’ve written a couple of …

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Weather watching… on Titan.

Nasa’s Messenger spacecraft may have finally arrived in orbit around Mercury, but the Cassini probe has been exploring Saturn’s system of moons since 2004 – some archived posts here.  [Image Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI] The latest images show seasonal weather patterns, and apparently associated surface changes.  From the Nasa/JPL press release Extensive rain from large cloud systems, spotted by Cassini’s cameras in late 2010, has apparently darkened the surface of the moon. The best explanation is these areas remained wet after methane rainstorms. …

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See beautiful Ontario Lacus!

Using radar data from the Cassini spacecraft’s flybys on June 22, 2009, July 8, 2009, and Jan. 12, 2010, Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have produced this animated flyover of a potential future holiday destination – the lakes of Titan.  Just don’t forget to pack the thermal underwear…  Video credit: JPL News From the JPL press release Ontario Lacus, the largest lake in the southern hemisphere of Saturn’s moon Titan, turns out to be a perfect exotic vacation spot, provided you can handle the frosty, subzero …

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The Caves of Titan?

After landing the Huygens probe on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, in 2005, the Cassini orbiter has been hanging around the neighbourhood taking some stunning images of a strangely familar world. The latest images come via the orbiter’s radar instrument and there’s a JPLnews video to accompany the press release. From the JPL News press release. Karst terrain on Earth occurs when water dissolves layers of bedrock, leaving dramatic rock outcroppings and sinkholes. Comparing images of White Canyon in Utah, the …

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Hubble Views Saturn’s Stunning Aurorae

Cassini may have captured Saturn’s Northern Lights but the Hubble Space Telescope has gone one better – observing both northern and southern aurora together. And those observations form the basis of this informative Hubble videocast. Here’s a video clip of the observed aurorae in isolation. Video Credit: NASA, ESA and Jonathan Nichols (University of Leicester)

“and where there’s water, carbon and energy…”

We’ve seen the fun festive dance of Saturn’s moons, but the BBC reports the latest confirmation of the briny breath of Enceladus – courtesy of the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer. And, from the Cassini press release “While it’s no surprise that there is water there, these short-lived ions are extra evidence for sub-surface water and where there’s water, carbon and energy, some of the major ingredients for life are present,” said lead author Andrew Coates from University College London’s Mullard Space …

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Dance of Saturn’s Moons

Some festive fun from the imaging team at Nasa’s Cassini mission who constructed this musical interlude featuring Saturn’s moons from original images captured between Aug. 27 and Nov. 8, 2009. Video credit: NASA/JPL.From the Nasa/JPL press release To celebrate the holidays, the Cassini imaging team has created a video collection of “mutual events,” which occur when one moon passes in front of another, as seen from the spacecraft. Imaging scientists use mutual event observations to refine their understanding of the …

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“It’s an unsettling combination of strangeness yet similarity to Earth.”

The latest image from Nasa’s Cassini mission is the first observed flash of sunlight reflected off a northern lake on Saturn’s moon Titan. Team members at the University of Arizona in Tucson processed the image further. They were able to pinpoint the reflection at the southern shoreline of a lake called Kraken Mare. The sprawling Kraken Mare covers about 400,000 square kilometers (150,000 square miles), an area larger than the Caspian Sea, the largest lake on Earth. By comparing this …

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10 years of [XMM] Newton and the hexagon on Saturn

The European Space Agency is marking the 10th anniversary of the launch of the X-ray observatory XMM-Newton with a less than informative slide-show. Of better value, if un-embeddable, is the BBC hosted version. Meanwhile Nasa’s Cassini probe, after imaging Saturn’s northern lights, has been capturing visible-light images of the mysterious hexagon-shaped jet-stream around Saturn’s north pole – full image here. First seen by the Voyager probes in 1979, infrared images of the structure were previously captured in 2006. Image Credit: …

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Saturn’s Northern Lights

Wondrous false colour images from Nasa’s Cassini probe of aurora at the northern pole of Saturn. JPL press release here and more details of the images here. Below the fold Cassini scientist Andy Ingersoll explains. Cassini scientist Andy Ingersoll on Saturn’s ‘northern lights’, shown for the first time in a visible-light movie. Video from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology Update Original second [embedded] video wasn’t working for me. I’ve replaced it with a YouTube upload instead.

IBEX sees heliosphere boundary structure

Nasa’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (Ibex) spacecraft has identified unexpected evidence of structure at the farthest reaches of our solar system, at the edge of our heliosphere – a crucial layer of protection against galactic cosmic rays. The structure, a “bright, winding ribbon” which seems to be ordered by the galactic magnetic field just outside the heliosphere, has also been confirmed by observations from Cassini in orbit around Saturn. And for the geeks out there, you know who you are, here’s …

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Saturn’s Rite of Spring

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Nasa/Esa/Isa’s Cassini probe has been paying close attention to Saturn at Equinox – as the image left, a mosaic of 75 exposures, shows. There’s a much larger version here and, via the Professor, the Bad Astronomer has more. Here’s a JPL News video of what Cassini’s been watching at Saturn. 15 years to the next equinox. And here’s a medium sized version of the image. And a previous post on Saturn and Cassini.